Spotted in Jewish DC: Sip City

A few weeks ago, I celebrated Shabbat with a yoga mat, a vegan rice bowl, and a tall glass of switchel.

This Friday night experience was nourished by OneTable, and hosted by GatherDC’s very own blogger – Judith Rontal! It was, in a word, “namastastic”. (Yes, that’s a word I just made up.)

One of the things that made it so awesome, was the drink that accompanied it all, switchel. This nourishing, apple cider vinegar and ginger based drink made my tummy and taste buds happy – all at once. Turns out, the company – Sip City –  behind this delicious beverage, was founded and is owned by a young, Jewish woman living in DC – Nikki Blank, and her business partner Josie. Lucky for me, I got the chance to grab coffee with Nikki at GatherDC’s brand new townhouse where we chatted all things switchel. Read on!

…And yes, it’s kosher for Passover.


Nikki and Josie, Sip City Co-Owners

Allie: What is switchel?

Nikki: Switchel is an apple cider vinegar and ginger based drink that’s been around since 1700s. You can trace roots from ancient Greece to U.S. congressmen who used to spike it with rum.

Switchel is made of apple cider vinegar, ginger, citrus, honey, and water. We [my Sip City partner Josie and I] played around with ingredients to come up with the different flavors to update them. Switchel can be used as a refreshing beverage, pre- and post-workout drink, a 3pm slumpbuster, a hangover cure, a cocktail mixer, a salad dressing, and even a chicken marinade.

I also have a lot of friends who don’t drink alcohol, and switchel is the perfect cocktail alternative that’s not just soda or a sugary juice. It’s an inclusive, versatile drink that can work for everyone.

Allie: What inspired you to start Sip City?

Nikki: I’ve been making drink concoctions in my kitchen for years to help relieve some of my stomach issues. I was burning my own kombucha – which was really tedious, and then buying my own kombucha – which was expensive. I thought, there had to be a better way to do this. I came across switchel on a blog, and started playing around with recipes to make it taste great. Then, I started selling my drinks under the table at work.

When I moved to DC [from Boston] this past June, I realized there was nothing that tasted as good as my switchel on market. I also noticed how popular kombucha and these kinds of drinks were getting, so it was a collision of lots of great things happening all at once.

Allie: What is your favorite Sip City switchel flavor?

Nikki: my favorite is “The Boston” – it’s got turmeric, black pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon. It’s so, so good in a spicy margarita, or warmed up on a cold day.

Allie: What new flavors are you working on now?

Nikki: We’re working on some summer flavors with grapefruit and tart cherry. The other day, I juiced a cucumber and threw it into switchel, and realized it was basically a drinkable pickle. I also want to do a Tokyo-themed switchel with green tea yuzu.

Allie: Why Tokyo?

Nikkie: My family lives in Tokyo! My dad got transferred 10 years ago there for his job and my parents moved there full time after I went to college. I try to go once or twice a year…there’s actually a pretty cool jewish scene in tokyo.

Allie: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced while starting your own business as a woman in DC?

Nikki: I’m so new to this industry and not sure how it works – the rhythm and pacing of it all. It’s hard to determine what success is because everyday is super different.

There’s also an education gap. People don’t know what switchel is, so we have to teach them what it is, and that vinegar can be palatable. Getting people to try it is a challenge. Once they do, they love it.

It’s also a very male dominated industry. In DC, we’re definitely seeing a women-led movement in food and food innovation, which is very rare. [My business partner and I] are trying to break down these gender barriers in food.

Allie: What advice do you have for others interested in starting their own business?

Nikki: Go for it! Make sure you have a good support system in place – friends and family who will financially and emotionally support you. You can always start a small business on the side, and grow it while working a full-time job. Just make sure you are 100% invested in what you are doing, and realize it will be a 24/7 endeavor that never ends. You have to be passionate about it and ready to change your life. Because your life will change.

Allie: What is your dream for the future of Sip City?

Nikki: To have people talking about switchel in the same way they talk about kombucha. I want to have people all over the country drinking switchel, and for people to be more mindful about what they drink throughout the day. And for switchel to be be lasting, not just a trend.


GatherDC Readers: You can buy Sip City drinks at Glen’s or Union Market, or WIN A CASE at our Jewish People of the YEAR Celebration! You get 2 raffle ticket when you sign up for the party, and will be automatically entered to win Sip City switchel, along with tons of other great prizes.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Spotted in Jewish DC: Hill Country BBQ’s Passover Brisket

When you think Passover food, Texan BBQ is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But, local DC BBQ joint, Hill Country BBQ, has somehow magically combined these two forces to create a mouthwatering, traditional Texan BBQ brisket ready-to-order for Passover.

Get the lowdown on this seder-worthy dish from Hill Country BBQ’s Chef de Cuisine, Dan Farber, and Director of Operations, Chris Schaller.

Allie: I hear you have some delicious brisket on sale for Passover. What makes this brisket special?

Chris: Our founder, Marc Glosserman, grew up in the BBQ capital of Texas, where central Texas BBQ is a true celebration of the quality of meat. Our brisket reflects this, and is made with a heavy rub of cayenne, salt, and pepper, and then we soak it over Texas post oak wood from 13-15 hours. By the time it comes out, its very tender, melts in your mouth.

Allie: How can I get this brisket at my Passover seder?

Chris: You can order it online here, pick it up at Hill Country BBQ, or we can do drop-off catering whenever possible – depending on the amount.

Allie: What’s your favorite Passover food?

Dan: Hmmm that’s a hard one because isn’t all Passover food really amazing? 🙂 I would probably say a delicious brisket of course, and a good, flavorful matzo ball soup with the perfect consistency matzo balls (somewhere between floater and sinker). I don’t mind gefilte fish and I can tolerate matzo when it’s served with some butter or as matzo pizza. Of course, in the morning you can’t pass up matzo brei!

Allie: Do you have any other foods at Hill Country you suggest for Passover?

Chris: We serve a healthy amount of lamb, and some great sides like cucumber salad. These can all be ordered for delivery to a Passover seder.

Allie: Is there a discount GatherDC readers can get on the brisket?

Dan: We are happy to extend a 10% discount for GatherDC-ers, just mention this article when ordering.


Check out our 2018 Passover Guide for more DC restaurants with seder foods, Passover recipes, and much more.






NOTE: The brisket at Hill Country BBQ is not kosher.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Spotted in Jewish DC: Solid State Books Holiday Pop-Up

Not to brag or anything, but, this week, we’ve kind of discovered the Hanukkah gift shop mother-load. The Solid State Books pop-up (the evergreen bookstore is slated to open in early 2018) has everything and anything you’ll ever need to impress your best friend, sister, mom, partner, or coworker with your on point gift giving skills. Meet the nice Jewish bookshop owner who started it all (alongside Scott Abel) – cofounder, Jake Cumsky-Whitlock.

After you read our 1:1 interview with Jake, go check out the shop at 600 H St NE in time for the holidays…which means ASAP…because, welp, Hanukkah started yesterday!

GatherDC-ers Rachel and Allie with co-founder, Jake!

How did Solid State Books come into existence?

I’ve always loved books, which led me to get a master’s degree in creative writing, and then go on to work at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle. Scott Abel (Solid State Books co-founder) and I met while working together at Kramerbooks, where we were for almost a dozen years. We talked about opening a business together, and decided bookselling was our long-term career choice. 

Where did the name come from?

It’s threefold: 1) A throwback to solid state technology – which was a term used to describe modern technology in the ‘50s and ‘60s. 2) It references the physical book that you can hold in your hand. A book that doesn’t exist in the cloud, that you scan hold, put down, and lend to people. 3) It’s a pitch for DC statehood. We think this name is definitely going to push us over the top in terms of DC becoming a state. 😉

Why shop local versus buying books on Amazon?

Well, we can’t compete with Amazon on price. But, we don’t believe books should be discounted, because we think it lessens their inherent value. Also, we offer a curated selection of books, and the ability to talk to someone about those books.

Most of all, we provide a community. We have an actual space people can come to that’s not their home, or their work, but they can connect with other people, whether that’s by meeting new people, discovering new books, hearing authors, or getting intellectual stimulation.

When does Solid State Books actually open?

Sometime in early 2018. We’re very excited about it! We’re going to host so many amazing events at the shop – cookbook events, literary fiction talks, children’s author programs, and events that are not totally book driven, but bring community together to talk about important issues like cannabis legalization, DC school systems, etc.

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And now, here are some on-point Hanukkah gift ideas we discovered at the Solid State Books pop-up: 

      Caticorn Greeting Card, and other way too relatable cards


      Maps of DC

      Water-Color Paint Set

      Inspiring Women, and Beer, Coasters


      Books to Learn About Life: e.g. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor E. Frankl; Thich Nhat Hanh’s “How To” Series; “Brave Enough” by Cheryl Strayed

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.